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STREET NAMES: Talfourd Street named for kindly pioneer

Published on

George Mathewson

Froome Talfourd has a street, a hamlet and a creek that bears his name, but it was a cottage he built in what’s now downtown Sarnia that impressed one early city historian.

Talfourd’s cottage was high on a hill overlooking Sarnia Bay, with a stone wall, a handsome gate and a little garden filled with tended shrubs and flowers.

At the water’s edge was a boathouse housing a large rowboat. And best of all, Charlotte Vidal Nesbit later recorded, it had its own sandy beach.

“A quiet private beach and good for bathing,” she wrote.

Froome Talfourd had arrived in the year 1834, on horseback, with his kid brother Field.

They bought land just south of Sarnia (near the present day Shell Oil dock) and founded a hamlet later named FroomeField. The property came with a mill, powered by the outflow of Talfourd Creek, to grind grain and cut lumber.

Field didn’t stay long. He went back to England and became an accomplished portrait artist.

But Froome’s little settlement soon boasted a church, a windmill and 40 residents, including wagon makers, a tailor, shoemaker and blacksmith.

Much of the 98 acres was covered in black walnut that was sold as cordwood to passing steamers.

Froome Talfourd was, by most accounts, a good man who was kind and helpful. He became a magistrate, a court commissioner and a lieutenant-colonel in the militia, raising a company of 100 men to patrol between Sarnia and Sombra during the rebellion of 1837.

That same year he married Eliza Johnston, daughter of a future Sarnia mayor, and after the ceremony they rowed up the river in the moonlight together.

Froome Talfourd was the son of a brewer but an ardent teetotaller. Each day he calculated how much he was saving by not drinking, and gave that amount annually to various charities.

He also became “visiting superintendent” to the local Chippewa and moved into Sarnia in 1855, travelling by horseback to the scattered reserves.

He retired 13 years later, but before returning to England he was the guest of honour at a massive feast thrown by the residents of today’s Aamjiwnaang First Nation.

In gratitude, he promised to return the favour on Nov. 4 each year until he returned, a promise he kept till his death.

But Talfourd never did return, and in 1874 his cottage overlooking Sarnia Bay was moved, allowing Front Street to be extended north through the hill on which it had stood.

About all that remains of early Froomefield today is the former church cemetery, which contains some of this area’s earliest pioneer graves.

 

Talfourd Street, Sarnia
Talfourd Street, Sarnia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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